Blair community members' summer plans include everything from backyard barbecues to global travel, but one activity that all students and English teachers will have in common is reading Chemistry, the debut novel by 28-year-old writer Weike Wang. Named a "Most-Anticipated Novel of 2017" by Entertainment Weekly, The Millions and Bustle, the book is Blair's first all-School summer read, and English department chair James Moore has high expectations for the shared literary experience.
"The fact that Chemistry is a debut novel by a young author is important," Mr. Moore said, explaining that one of the reasons the book was chosen as this year's all-School summer read was to "reduce the distance" between students and authors and perhaps encourage some students to become writers themselves.
"I think sometimes students see writers as vaguely accomplished figures with dozens of books under their belts, standing in some distant Pantheon," he continued. "Weike Wang is only about 10 years older than our students, giving them a different view of who a writer might be: someone energetic and real, who sits down to write like they sit down to do homework. That alone might spur students to pursue those story ideas they have in the back of their minds."
In addition to providing inspiration to budding novelists, Mr. Moore also values the all-school summer read for the literary conversations the experience is likely to kindle in English classes and around campus this fall. He would like to arrange an author visit as well, to help build a dynamic relationship between the Blair community and writers. "Such relationships can open us to new voices and ideas while helping us better imagine what William Shakespeare or Willa Cather had in mind when they sat down to write," he said.
The all-school summer read builds upon the success of the spring 2017 all-school read of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing that culminated in the Blair Academy Players' production of the work in May. As Mr. Moore and his English department colleagues continue to foster Blair's literary community, he reiterated one of the key reasons reading literature is so important: it helps us develop empathy for characters that will hopefully extend into our interactions with others throughout our lives.
"I hope that in reading Chemistry, students will not only discover a connection with the novelist herself, but also gain a sense of why the unnamed narrator, who fails and then experiences unexpected triumph, is someone worth getting to know well enough to understand," he concluded.
Read more about Chemistry here.